Getting Through Tough Times in the Interiorscape Business

As a child, I was fortunate to grow up around horses.  One day, I saddled my favorite Pinto and headed off for the trails believing I had the ability to ride without my mother’s supervision. When the horse stumbled over some rocks, the saddle strap came loose and I fell directly onto my back. For a long moment, I could only stare at the blue sky while I gasped for breath, unsure if the air would come back.  It’s a very scary feeling to have the wind knocked out of you and I vowed never to get back on that beautiful awful Pinto again. My mother didn’t share my sentiment and I was forced to immediately saddle her back up. If she hadn’t forced me to conquer my fear, I likely would not have participated in competitive riding in my teenage years. 

When the fate of a business rests on your shoulders, it can be a hard blow to absorb when one of your biggest clients suddenly cancels your service. It’s surprisingly similar to the feeling of falling off that horse and unable to breathe. 

Right before New Years, I got one of those calls. After over ten years of servicing their outdated office park, the owners finally agreed to my suggestion for a major overhaul of the main atrium. The quoted design was close to $20 thousand with the new service agreement doubling in price.  So, when one of the owners called, I expected her to give me a start date.

Instead, she told me their building sold on Christmas Eve and the new owners decided to tear up the atrium and turn it into more office space. Completely dismayed, not only were the plants I cared for being destroyed, but also a major portion of company revenue.  In my head, I had already spent that money for much needed company improvements along with a much-needed vacation. Getting through tough times in business requires The only option for me, was to climb back up on that horse and find other revenue. 

Getting through tough times in business often requires courage and creativity. Here are a few ideas I use to get over my fear and apathy.

Look for Low Hanging Fruit

Although this phrase often has a negative connotation, to me, it’s a good description of one way to make the best of a situation. The thought of soliciting new business and getting mostly “No’s,” can make bad circumstances even harder to bear.  Instead, I go through my client files and look for small projects that will most likely get approved and quickly turn into cash flow. For example, I had been neglectful on contacting some of my exterior container clients which were overdue for seasonal change outs.  Ninety nine percent of the time, the client tells me to go ahead. Even though these are minimal in profits compared to an atrium redesign, getting any sale is a morale booster and encourages me to search for more. 

Go through old proposals

Instead of starting from scratch, I find it easier to revisit old proposals. Give companies you previously quoted a call or send them follow up emails with new design ideas. There can be many reasons why your quote wasn’t accepted in the first place, so you can’t use rejection as an excuse not to try again.  It can be as simple as just catching a business at the right time, like renovation plans. Owners and management can change, or maybe the company’s financial position increased allowing them to invest in your service. Some accounts have taken me years of persistence to acquire so never count your quote out. It might just be timing that eventually turns a cold shoulder into a good account. Your persistence, just may convince them that you’re a reliable, dedicated vendor.  

Reconnect with peers

When I started my second interiorscape company I attended many different networking groups. Sometimes contacts there would translate to new clients, and at the very least, new friends and inspiration to achieve more and learn new ideas. As business became steadier, I had much less time to devote to networking. I often lost touch with many of those ties.  

Whether it’s through an email, social media or a phone call, I’ll catch up with people from different circles and find out what’s new and exciting in their lives.  I think if you are genuine with others, you don’t even have to ask if they know of any opportunities to help your sales. 

Sometimes, just talking about everyday life, can often lead into unexpected business such as a wedding or holiday design. If nothing else, reconnecting with people who go through the same difficult business experiences can give you the motivation you need to get back out there and face the world.

In the face of COVID-19, the interior landscaping industry will face some significant challenges. It’s going to take heart, creativity and courage to persevere through these tough times. 

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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